I’m the one who you ask to mentor you (code for “I buy YOU coffee while you ask me questions about how I got where I am”), the one whose advice you ignore when I say “increase your 401k contributions 1% on the anniversary of your employment”, and the one who you ask about divorce stuff. Somehow in the last year or so, I’ve gotten to the ripe old age where I know stuff about how life works (except you, motherhood) and people want my advice. I’m a full on adult.
And the only thing I really have to thank for getting me here is all the mistakes I’ve made in my life. Because no book or teacher taught me how to be an adult. I’ve had a few mentors along the way, that’s for sure, but mostly I’ve gone to them after the mistakes forced me to. So mistakes have made me an adult.
But did they have to?
Sure, we’re always going to make mistakes, even when we’re taught otherwise, but.. wouldn’t it be nice if in school we learned some practical, real-world knowledge? I graduated high school knowing about sine and cosine, but not how to balance a checkbook. I graduated with a BUSINESS degree from college but couldn’t tell you what a “standard deduction” was when filing taxes. In fact, today in 2018, I forgot what that was called and had to just Google “That discount every person gets on their taxes.” (Seriously.. if we ALL get it.. why can’t we not get it and our taxes just be LOWER..?)
Wouldn’t it have been nice if, to graduate high school, we had to take an Adulting 101 Class? And then in freshman year of college you’d get Adulting 201. And midway through college, maybe it’s a summer online course, you get Adulting 301. And, in the last few weeks of your Senior year, instead of making you take a test to opt out of “Entry-level College Algebra” because you forgot to take it Freshman year and can’t graduate until you pass (just me..?), you take Adulting 401: The final class you need before graduating and become a real life adult.
I don’t remember what sine and cosine are, but I do remember that I didn’t file my own taxes for the first 5 years of my adult life (Thanks, Dad.)
Adulting 101 could cover:
- Don’t open that credit card you’re going to hear about the first week on your college campus because that’s not free money. Or if you do open it, pay off the balance each month. NO exceptions.
- Don’t send that guy you just met at the frat party last night a nude. Or if you do, make sure your face isn’t seen.
- The Freshman Blues: You aren’t the only one who missing your dumb high school friends. And it’s okay to tell your mom you miss her too.
- Not going to college? Activity: Calculate how much you make working at that ice cream shop. Calculate how much you think you need to go out on the weekends. Figure out how much you can actually spend going out on weekends.
- The importance of opening a savings account (and not stealing from it because Express has a sale on slutty Holiday dresses.)
Adulting : The College Years could cover:
- When your first job offers you a 401k, with a match- THAT is actually free money. Open an account and start contributing
- Activity: Calculate the average salary your degree will earn you right out of college. Cry at how low the number is.
- Activity: Calculate your student loans. Calculate the average expenses for rent, food, activities after graduating. Subtract your expenses from your salary. That’s a real number (and it’s probably negative. Time to tell Mom and Dad you’re moving home)
- Do you need that Master’s Degree you’re considering ? Is it important for your career? Will it get you to the next level and will it finically be worth the loans you’ll have to take out?
- TAXES: Here is how they work (followed by 1,283 more classes like this. And you still won’t understand it!)
Adulting in your 20s
- Retirement: : What you need to know so that you can eventually do it.
- Marriage: Good idea? Yes. Even me, an ol’ divorced lady, thinks so. Just get a prenupt. Talk about the potential end to your relationship before it ends. It’s not jinxing the future. Its responsible and will make a maybe future end to your relationship healthier.
- Buying a House: It’s okay that even though your friends with 2 kids bought a 4 bedroom house in the suburbs you’re still binge drinking Friday nights. You don’t have to do that too. But.. if you want to buy a modest starter house or condo, it could be a good investment and make you richer in your 30s.
Adulting and Beyond
- Breastfeeding is gonna hurt! Like REALLY hurt
- Someone will still want to have sex with you, even after your vagina is torn up after pushing out a 7-10 lb baby. (sorry if your baby is bigger than 10lb. .. JK)
- You haven’t been increasing your contributions to your 401k? Time to start !
- You probably can’t buy that big house in your 30s if you didn’t invest wisely in your 20s.
- Divorce- you’ll survive this!
- Taxes: You still won’t understand. And then they’ll change it!
- Have your Harvard MBA but still don’t now which business classification you should be for your new consulting firm? Hire an attorney.
- Unless you’re taxes are really simple, hire an accountant for tax time. They aren’t that expensive
- You’re still not saving enough!
- Health Insurance 101 for people who don’t work at Health Insurance companies.
Nikki and I met at a “Semester Away” program for music on Martha’s Vineyard in 2002. This Program recently announced they added an “Adulting 101” class to their semester. They asked what we wanted to know at age 20. People responded with:
- Mental Illness: how to recognize it and what to do about it
- The importance of good posture
- Meal Planning (STILL NEED A CLASS ON THIS!)
- How to fold a fitted sheet.
Actual footage of my boyfriend folding our sheets
- How to change a spare tire.
- Roommates to avoid
- How to handle confrontation
There are some great ideas here. And I was so excited to hear they were holding this class for students. It’s a start.
The reality is, I have learned a lot about the things above (except for you “How to fold a fitted sheet”) by making mistakes. And the mistakes were valuable and thankfully didn’t set me up for any MAJOR failure, even the hardest ones. But that’s not the case for everyone. I have friends who made the same financial mistakes that I did but on a larger scale and their consequences were much, much greater. My dad helped me with my taxes and for that I know I’m privileged. I have friends who didn’t pay taxes for years and are tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt because of it.
It’s hard to listen to advice, especially when you’re young and think you know better (and someone is telling you to spend less money), but it’s important. I may talk more about this in the upcoming weeks and months or when I have no pop culture ideas to write about because it’s a passion of mine. Until then..
Seriously, increase your 401k contributions by the same amount you spend in coffee on a monthly basis. Your future bad ass retired self will thank you.